Alberta First Nations launch environmental court challenge

Two Alberta First Nations are launching a court challenge Tuesday to fight what they say is Ottawa’s attempt to weaken the protection of fish habitat and their right to be consulted over development.

The Mikisew Cree and Frog Lake First Nations plan to submit their challenge to Federal Court, arguing the federal government needed to consult with First Nations before passing changes in the omnibus bills C-38 and C-45.

Those bills included changes to the Fisheries Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, legislation that in the past has triggered environmental reviews and First Nations’ involvement when industry sought to impact estuaries, wetlands, streams and other fish habitat.

“The focus here is on the environmental parts of the legislation,” said Robert Janes, legal counsel for the First Nations. “They’ve greatly reduced those protections.”

The legislation was critical for rural First Nations trying to protect a traditional way of life and convince industry to consult when they planned work in traditional territories, he said. “All of a sudden, in two bills, everything they are used to dealing with is essentially gutted.” Read more …